One of Muskoka’s most notable landmarks is set for a new chapter in its history.
The District of Muskoka recently wrapped up rehabilitation work on the iconic Port Sandfield swing bridge after months of construction.
The work should extend the life of the bridge for decades to come and is the latest evolution of Ontario’s oldest swing bridge.
The structure is actually the fourth version of the bridge, which was built in 1876 – six years after the community of Port Sandfield itself was established. The community sprang up when a canal was created to link Lake Joseph and Lake Rosseau. It was named after John Sandfield MacDonald, who was then the Premier of Ontario.
Construction of the canal was spearheaded by Alexander Peter Cockburn, the man largely responsible for bringing steamboat and stagecoach service to Muskoka in the latter half of the 19th Century.
To accommodate his steamships, and the others traversing the region’s lakes, the original bridge towered some 40 feet in the air. That version of the bridge presented a number of challenges as it could not be crossed by wagons or livestock, and was by all accounts a nerve-wracking journey for pedestrians.
A more practical wooden swing bridge was built in 1897. That was replaced by a metal swing bridge in 1924, which stood for most of the twentieth century. When it closed in 1997 it was the last hand-swung swing bridge in Ontario. It was replaced by the current bridge in 1998.
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